On Wokeness and Other Obstacles to Clear Thinking

Groupthink puts conformity above facts and reality
February 1, 2021 Updated: February 3, 2021

Commentary

Why are wokeness, political correctness, and virtue signalling condemned? It’s because they interfere with clear and logical thinking, producing faulty decisions and policies that waste money and hurt a lot of people. Canada and other countries today are full of examples of crooked thinking. Rex Murphy, Barbara Kay, Tucker Carlson, and Jordan Peterson are among those who reveal it.

People who make a habit of clear thinking demonstrate consistent insight into the real causes of problems and effective ways to deal with them. Former Canadian prime ministers John A. Macdonald, Mackenzie King, and Louis St. Laurent were clear thinkers for the most part, as were America’s Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan, among others. I also put Donald J. Trump in this category, but not his successor or predecessor. If Barack Obama had been a good and clear-thinking president, Trump wouldn’t have had such a mess to clean up.

Wokeness, political correctness, and virtue signalling are forms of groupthink, which is an enemy of clear thought because it puts harmony and conformity above facts and reality. Groupthink hurts political parties and “progressivism.”

Hiring on the basis of sex over merit and suitability is groupthink. Joe Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is groupthink. He killed it not because it made economic sense to do so (it clearly did not) but in order to placate a noisy and irrational portion of the Democratic Party that put him in power. He did it to conform. Blinded by groupthink, Biden and progressives believe that killing oil and natural gas projects are good for “the planet.”

This ignores many relevant facts: that oil is very much needed and produced worldwide and will be for decades to come; that tens of thousands of families looked to those pipeline jobs in the United States and Canada, especially Alberta, to put food on the table; that we already have in both countries many thousands of miles of safe and well-functioning pipeline; that rail is a more hazardous, dirty, and expensive form of transport, etc., etc.

What about Swedish activist Thunberg? Because she utters the same platitudinous tripe without respect for the complexity of the issues, it’s more groupthink.

What is wokeness? On one level, wokeness is simply a state of being aware, especially of social problems such as racism and inequality.

But we need to go deeper than this. James Lindsay, author of “Cynical Theories,” defines wokeness as a fusion of the critical theory school and neo-Marxism, which is a form of identity politics and radical activism that separates the world into oppressors and oppressed. This is a false dichotomy, an example of crooked thinking that leads to wrong conclusions. To say the world is so divided is an oversimplification, given our freedoms and legal protections.

Lindsay goes on to say that truth becomes not an objective reality but malleable, based on power and who drives the narrative of what truth really is. “In effect, the truth is replaced by my truth,” as Jarrett Stepman put it in The Daily Signal.

And so control of the narrative, as others have noted, is central to power and the ability to control people’s thinking—people, that is, who do not think critically. For the good of our democracies, for the preservation of the wisdom passed down through the ages from the classical times of Aristotle and Cicero to the present day, we must therefore help to increase the numbers of people who can see through the nonsense of what wokeness has become.

Wokeness began in America in the 1940s as a positive concept and was used by black people to mean sensitized or awake to issues of justice. It became politicized in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown in Missouri, which sparked Black Lives Matter. Now it’s shorthand for progressivism, itself pejorative because of groupthink.

Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s Enlightenment assertion that wisdom lies in the people is false when people can’t think straight. So we need to encourage our schools to instruct their students on the basics of clear and logical thinking and how to avoid the common fallacies—starting, say, in Grade 6. We need to encourage our university and college students to enroll in classes of Logic. What really hurts, though, is that many of the teachers entrusted with shaping young minds are themselves wounded by wokeness and political correctness and can’t be trusted to do their jobs well.

It’s a sad state of affairs—no wonder the sales of spirits are soaring!

Simple awareness of racism is a good thing because it helps us quash it. It becomes a bad thing in woke thinking when extrapolated into the false premise of “systemic racism.”

When a person thinks they experience racism from one or two individuals in a government office, it means those persons may have been racist. It does not necessarily mean racism is systemic in that office or society. After all, efforts to combat racism go back at least to the 1930s when jazz clarinetists Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw promoted integration by hiring blacks such as Billie Holiday.

Let’s give them, and those who fought racism in the 1950s, and Martin Luther King’s efforts in the ’60s, and the rest of us who are fair-minded citizens today some credit. Sound reasonable?

Brad Bird is an award-winning reporter and editor based in B.C. He holds a master’s degree in Political Studies (University of Manitoba).

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.